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Budget Magic: Curious Rogues (Historic)


Good morrow, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! After playing Standard for a few weeks in a rogue...er...row, we are trying something a bit different this week: budget Historic! Since Historic is a digital-only format on Magic Arena, our budget today is a bit different. When building the deck, I completely disregarded the paper price of the cards (which is why the deck comes in at slightly over $100). Instead, the "budget" for this week is no more than 15 rares (which is exactly how many we have, although it's worth mentioning that 11 of them are lands, so we're only playing a single playset of a non-land rare). So, what is this 15-rare Historic deck? Curious Rogues, of course! Unlike Standard Rogues, which is mostly a UB Control deck, our deck today is very much an aggro-tempo deck, with the plan being to flood the board early with cheap, evasive Rogues; use lords like Oona's Blackguard and Soaring Thought-Thief to turn them into more meaningful threats; back up our Rogues with some light counters and removal; and hopefully finish off the game quickly. Can a deck with just 15 rares compete in Historic? Can Rogues be aggro rather than control? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Curious Rogues

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The Deck

Curious Rogues is a tribal, aggro, tempo deck. The game plan is to flood the board with cheap, evasive Rogues; use Oona's Blackguard and Soaring Thought-Thief to turn them into more meaningful threats; and then disrupt our opponent with counters and removal just long enough to pick up the win with combat damage.

The Pseudo-Lords

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The two most important Rogues in our deck are our two-mana pseudo-lords, Oona's Blackguard and Soaring Thought-Thief, both of which are powerful payoffs for a Rogue tribal deck individually, while also having some sneaky synergy together. Oona's Blackguard is basically a flying Metallic Mimic for Rogues, making all of our Rogues come into play with an extra +1/+1 counter. More importantly, whenever a creature with a +1/+1 counter deals combat damage to our opponent, they have to discard a card. In conjunction with the cheap flying Rogues that fill our deck, Oona's Blackguard is not only a lord that allows us to push through additional damage but also quickly Mind Twists away our opponent's hand, leaving them without any way to answer our board or kill us.

The discard mode of Oona's Blackguard also helps to power up our second payoff, Soaring Thought-Thief, by getting cards into our opponent's graveyard. I won't spend too much time on the Dimir two-drop since it's already heavily played in Standard so you likely know what it does, but in our deck, it not only allows another way to pump our cheap, flying Rogues but also is a decent attacker once we get eight cards into our opponent's graveyard.

The Three-Drop

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At the top end of our curve (and also the only non-land rare in our entire deck), we have Nighthawk Scavenger. Thanks to Soaring Thought-Thief and Oona's Blackguard filling our opponent's graveyard, the reverse Tarmogoyf often ends up being a massive lifelinking, deathtouching flier, allowing us to kill our opponent in just a few attacks. The lifelink of Nighthawk Scavenger is also a huge upside, not only swinging the race against other aggressive decks but also helping to keep our life total high enough to continually draw extra cards with Castle Locthwain

The One-Drops

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Rounding out our creature base are 12 one-mana flying Rogues. On one level, all of these cards are essentially the same: 1/1 fliers for one that allow us to chip in for damage in the air, wear Curious Obsession, and benefit from our Rogue lords. That said, apart from Nightshade Stinger (which is—by far—the worst of our one-drops, but still helps fill out the curve), all of our one-drops have some additional upside. If we happen to draw two copies of Faerie Miscreant, we get to draw a card, which is a nice bonus, while Merfolk Windrobber helps to fill our opponent's graveyard as it deals combat damage, and later in the game, we can cast it in for a new card if we are desperate. Together, having 12 of these cards in our deck means we are exceedingly likely to have one on Turn 1, which is important because of the "curious" part of our deck...

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Curious Obsession is great in our deck thanks to all of our one-mana flying Rogues. As we saw with Mono-Blue Tempo in Standard a while back, an evasive one-drop wearing a Curious Obsession and drawing an extra card each turn can easily snowball and run away with the game if it isn't removed immediately. The aura does the same thing in our deck, hopefully coming down on Turn 2 enchanting a Faerie Miscreant, Merfolk Windrobber, or Nightshade Stinger to give us a steady stream of card advantage and drawing us through our deck to find our payoffs, removal, and counters. In theory, we really only need to draw one or two cards with Curious Obsession to make it worth its one-mana cost, so even if our opponent manages to deal with our enchanted flier, it isn't the end of the world. The upside is that if our Curious Obsession creature goes unchecked, it can win us the game all by itself.

Interaction

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As I mentioned in the intro, unlike Standard Rogues, Curious Rogues isn't a control deck. We don't need to keep our opponent from doing anything for a million turns. Instead, we have a fast enough clock that we should be able to pick up the win if we can disrupt our opponent for just a few turns. We have Bloodchief's Thirst to deal with cheap creatures in the early game and then anything later. Lofty Denial is almost always a better Mana Leak in our deck since we have so many cheap fliers running around. Meanwhile, Drown in the Loch takes a bit to get going since we aren't really a mill deck, but once we get some cards in our opponent's graveyard with the help of Soaring Thought-Thief, Oona's Blackguard, and Merfolk Windrobber, it can counter or kill just about anything for just two mana, which is a great deal.

The Mana

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Technically, Curious Rogues is a 15-rare deck, but this is somewhat deceiving since nearly all of the rares are in the mana base, with Watery Grave and Clearwater Pathway helping us to cast our spells and Castle Locthwain being a great card-draw engine in a deck like ours that can typically empty its hand quickly. Because Curious Rogues is very aggressive, playing any tapped land is extremely painful, which makes it tough to get by with even more budget-friendly uncommon tapped lands. If you happen to have dual lands on Magic Arena from playing Standard over the past year, Curious Rogues is even cheaper than its 15-rare price tag would suggest, to the point where you might already have everything you need to play the deck in your collection or just need to pick up a few copies of Nighthawk Scavenger

Playing the Deck

In general, Curious Rogues is pretty straightforward: we cast our creatures, attack aggressively (our Rogues are really bad at blocking, outside of Nighthawk Scavenger), and hopefully pick up the win fairly quickly. That said, a few things are worth keeping in mind if you decide to pick up the deck:

  • Don't be afraid to run out Curious Obsession on Turn 2. Apart from random counterspells, we don't really have a way to protect it, so we're more than happy to run it out, draw a couple of cards, and get in some damage before our creature dies (of course, it's even better if the creature sticks around because we're almost certainly going to win the game). Don't wait until Turn 3 or 4 to try to play Curious Obsession and leave up a counter. Playing it this way is usually too slow.
  • Similarly, don't be afraid to run out a one-drop on Turn 1 even with Oona's Blackguard in hand. While it might be tempting to try to slow roll the one-drop until after Oona's Blackguard is on the battlefield to get the +1/+1 counter, we have so many one-drops in the deck that it's usually best to get our clock started immediately with the first one and then trust that we'll draw more to benefit from Oona's Blackguard later in the game. This is doubly important thanks to Curious Obsession. Holding off on playing a one-drop only to top-deck Curious Obsession the next turn and not having anything to put it on is brutal.
  • Speaking of leaving up counters, deciding when to deploy more threats and when to leave up mana to counter something is the hardest and most important decision point of the deck. There isn't really one hard and fast rule since it mostly depends on the matchup and the specific situation, but in general, the goal is to get two or three threats on the battlefield and then start leaving up counters, rather than adding more to the board. Soaring Thought-Thief also helps here thanks to flash allowing us to leave up a counter and still deploy a threat if our opponent doesn't do anything that we need to stop.

Wrap-Up

All in all, Curious Rogues was pretty impressive. We ended up going 4-1 at diamond on Magic Arena (one rank below mythic), with our one loss coming to a mono-black aggro deck that felt like a tough matchup thanks to a bunch of recursive Savannah Lions (although it didn't help that we also had some really awkward mana in that match). The deck felt surprisingly competitive, especially considering the tight budget. While our sample size was small, I wouldn't be surprised that if we kept playing the deck, we could take it all the way through diamond to mythic.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the one thing we might be missing is graveyard hate in the sideboard. While Curious Rogues isn't as mill focused as Standard Rogues is, we do still fill our opponent's graveyard, and milling over cards like Kroxa and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is really rough. Cling to Dust might be necessary. Otherwise, I was really happy with how the deck turned out!

So, should you play Curious Rogues in Historic? I think the answer is yes! The deck was fun to play and felt quite competitive. Plus, it's super cheap, costing 15 rare wildcards at most and much less than that if you already have Dimir dual lands like Watery Grave and Clearwater Pathway in your collection. If you like the play style of Modern Faeries or Standard Mono-Blue Tempo or Faeries, Curious Rogues should be right up your alley! 

Ultra-Budget Curious Rogues

While 15 rares is already pretty cheap on Magic Arena, is it possible to make Curious Rogues even cheaper? Technically, the answer is yes, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It's possible to build a zero-rare version of Curious Rogues by replacing all of our rare lands with cards like Dismal Backwater and Dimir Guildgate and dropping Nighthawk Scavenger for Slither Blade (which might be better than Nightshade Stinger anyway) or something like Orzhov Enforcer or Acquisitions Expert. The problem with this plan is that playing tapped dual lands is extremely punishing for an aggro deck that's looking to curve out.

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A more interesting ultra-budget plan is to keep the mana mostly the same but drop Nighthawk Scavenger for Slither Blade, which would also allow us to play Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion and cut three rares from the deck, getting the total down to 12. If you're really desperate, you can drop one of the dual lands for more basic Swamps and Islands, which would get the total rare count down to eight, but I'd look to upgrade the mana base as quickly as you can since consistency will be an issue.

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For our non-budget build, the biggest addition to the deck is Thoughtseize, which replaces Nightshade Stinger in the main deck. Otherwise, we get Drowned Catacomb in our mana base to hopefully reduce our odds of getting mana screwed, Agadeem's Awakening as a free-roll reanimation spell that also works as a land, and a few sideboard changes. Thankfully, even fully powered, the deck is still fairly cheap on Magic Arena, with just three mythics and 21 rares.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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